sessions at the American Political Science Association

I am helping to organize three sessions at this year’s APSA Conference that are relevant to civic renewal and civic education. The theme of the whole conference is “Power and Persuasion,” and the APSA president is the excellent Jane Mansbridge. Improving the relationship between persuasion and power is an essential goal of civic renewal. In that context …

1. Theme Panel: “Power and Persuasion from Below: Civic Renewal, Youth Engagement, and the Case for Civic Studies”
Aug 30, 2013, 4:15 PM-6:00 PM
Chair: Peter Levine, Tufts University. Participants: Paul Dragos Aligica, George Mason University; Carmen Sirianni, Brandeis University; Karol E. Soltan, University of Maryland; Filippo A. Sabetti McGill University; and Meira Levinson, Harvard University

“Civic renewal” refers to an international set of movements and practices that enhance citizens’ agency and may therefore strengthen persuasion over raw power. In the US, it includes public deliberation, broad-based community organizing, and collaborative governance, among other efforts. Its values have also been reflected in aspects of the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring, to name just two recent global movements. Youth are at the forefront of some of these efforts and must always be incorporated in them. “Civic Studies” is an emerging scholarly field inspired by Elinor and Vincent Ostrom and the Bloomington School, by social science as phronesis, by the new constitutionalism, by theories of public work and democratic professionalism, by research on deliberative democracy, and by related academic movements that take civic agency seriously. Civic education should draw on Civic Studies and support civic renewal.

2. APSA Committee on Civic Education and Engagement Roundtable: The Measurement and Assessment of Civic Learning in K -12 and College Education
Saturday, Aug 31, 2013, 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
13:00-14:30 on 29, 30 and 31 August 2013, Chicago
Chaired by Peter Levine. Participants: Elizabeth Bennion, Indiana University, South Bend; David Campbell, Notre Dame; Meira Levinson, Harvard University.

We will be thinking about what should be measured, how to measure it, and new opportunities afforded by tools like games and badges. One topic will be the ideas in the APSA’s edited volume, Teaching Civic Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen. But we will broaden the discussion beyond the question of how to measure students’ learning in college-level political science classes.

3. APSA Working Group on Young People’s Politics
August 29, 30 and 31, 2013, 1:00-2:30 PM
Convenors: Peter Levine, Tufts University; James Sloam, Royal Holloway, University of London

The political participation of young people in industrialized democracies has changed significantly over the past few decades. Although youth turnout in elections may be declining (or, as in the United States, has flatlined at a relatively low level), there is overwhelming evidence to show that young people are not apathetic. Indeed, it is young people who are diversifying political engagement: from consumer politics, to community campaigns, to international action groups; from the ballot box, to the street, to the Internet. Since the onset of the global financial crisis, we have witnessed a proliferation of youth protest: against authoritarianism (the Arab Spring), corporate greed and economic inequality (Occupy), youth unemployment (the ‘outraged young’ in Spain), and political corruption (the rise of populist parties like the Five-Star Movement in Italy). The international dimension of young people’s politics has also become increasingly apparent through the diffusion ideas and mobilisation from Cairo, to Madrid, to New York, to Istanbul to Rio. The APSA working group on young people’s politics will explore research on the nature of youth participation from a comparative perspective. To contextualise youth participation, it will also examine how public policy defines young people’s lives in our democracies e.g. through participation (or non-participation) in the labour market or opportunities (or lack of opportunities) for social mobility. Finally, the working group will focus on efforts to strengthen the civic and political engagement of young people (e.g. through civic education or political science education).

The working group sessions will provide an interactive forum for participants to discuss their own research with colleagues working in the same area, to reflect on panels visited by participants at the Annual Meeting (in the first meeting, we will agree on panels to recommend to participants), and discuss the potential for future research collaboration (e.g. conferences, funding, edited volumes) and the establishment of an APSA organised section on young people’s politics.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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